The Slave Prince Chapter 7
“Ayong… you’re back,” he said nervously as he stared at the boy and at the sword. He slowly got up. “What do you want?” Agawe forced himself to be calm.
“Apô said I should…” he said seriously as he brandished the sword, “give this to you,” and grinned sheepishly. “She wants you to have a sword,” he put it in the sheath hanging from his waist. He untied the rope and gave the sheathed sword to Agawe. “Apô sends you some clothes, too…”
“Wheww…. You scared me…”
“You thought I was going to hack you?” Ayong was visibly amused at the thought. “Apô will not like that but if Apô says I have to, I will...”
“I know you would… but I also know Apo will not let you do something like that…” Agawe said as he picked up the clothes Ayong brought him. “These are mine?” he asked. At last, his worn out tinalak shorts can now be replaced, he thought gleefully.
On the way, Ayong said, “I’m sorry for last night. Apô said you can be trusted.”
“It’s alright… so you don’t talk to al-langs?”
“My other apo said al-langs should be avoided…”
“But how do you know if someone is al-lang…”
“Al-langs are ugly…”
“You did not know I am al-lang… I am not ugly?” he asked smiling.
Ayong touched his chin as he looked at Agawe up and down, “you are tall and you look good… just like me…” He giggled. “And those clothes make you look a lot better … no one will know you’re al-lang now…”
When they came to the front yard, Ayong said, “Let’s go through the kitchen door.”
Inside, they saw food laid on the narrow table. The woman in the kitchen said to Agawe, “Sit down and eat your breakfast. There’s coffee in the stove.”
Then to Ayong, “Go join the family inside.”
After breakfast, Agawe followed Ayong to a huge earthen jar outside filled with rain water collected from the split-open bamboo gutters around the house. Ayong took a dipper and scooped the water. He drank from it and gave it to Agawe who also scooped water to drink and splashed the remainder on his face.
“You two, get inside. Apô needs you,” another woman called them in.
There were several men in the large room. “Agawe, go with Ubo. Masami hanged himself last night.” Apô instructed Agawe, “Always walk behind Ubo. Do not trust anyone.”
Read the Book
The Brother Dies
There was so much wailing and screaming at Masami’s house. It was a bamboo house with a steep bamboo staircase. Ubo negotiated the stairs with ease with Agawe on his heels. There were so many people in the house and Agawe wondered why Masami was still left hanging from the rafters of the bamboo house.
“Take him down,” Ubo ordered without emotion. The men took the dead body and laid him on a mat in the floor. Ubo turned to the women weeping in one corner. “What happened?” he asked the wife.
The wife just stared at Ubo with eyes swollen from crying. Agawe saw terror in those eyes.
Ubo bent down to look the woman straight in the eye. “What did you see?”
The woman bit her lips and shook her head. She took one deep breath and fainted. Ubo straightened himself as the other women revived Masami’s wife.
“Prepare him for burial,” Ubo ordered and turned to leave.
Back at Ubo’s house, Agawe was ordered to wait outside while Ubo and his mother conferred.
He was seated on the tree stump, which was becoming his favorite spot now, when someone startled him. Hands on his sword, he quickly stood up and saw that it was Ayong. He breathed a sigh of relief, “Don’t sneak up on me like that…”
“So … is Masami dead?” the boy asked.
“Yes… he’s dead. Hanged himself… because of shame or repentance perhaps…”
Ayong looked around and whispered, “He was killed…”
“Hey, Ayong… don’t say that… he hanged himself…”
“Agawe… do you really think Uncle will let Masami live? He was killed last night.”
“How do you know these things?”
Ayong smiled wickedly. “I know a lot of things around here.”
The kitchen door opened and three women carrying baskets of laundry on their heads came out. “Ayong, come with us to the stream. You carry the lunch.”
Ayong made a face and followed them but not before he whispered to Agawe, “Anson will also die, you know.”
So many people are dying around me these days, Agawe thought.
“Agawe…” a younger woman came out with a laundry basket on her head, too. “Apô wants you inside,” she said as she caught up with the procession to the stream.
Inside the large room, Apô sat opposite a mature woman and a young girl. “Agawe, this is Ubo’s wife Maeng and their daughter.”
Agawe bowed slightly to the woman.
She and her daughter wore short blouses with lace edgings around the neck and the bell sleeves. Their blouses were short and showed their abdomen. The tube tinalak skirts they wore were in striped design. While the daughter’s hair was short and hang loose, the mother’s hair was brushed back and tied in a loose knot on top of her head where a crown-like comb was inserted. From the lobes of her ears hang the most elaborate necklace of many, many strands of white pearls and shining stones. The first strand fell a few inches under her chin followed by strand after strand until the last one fell on her chest.
They were adorned with decorated brass armlets and leglets. The girl, like her mother, had rows of bells around her ankles which produced tinkling sounds as she moved around the mud floor barefoot. And on both their hands were gold “pankis” or bracelets.
“Agawe…” Maeng started, “Be good and we will treat you nice.” There’s a pleasant ring to her voice which seemed to vibrate and Agawe found himself drawn to her. She is warm and gracious but the young daughter would not even look at him. She looks down on al-langs like me, Agawe thought.
“Madita salamat, Tiya,” was all Agawe could say. He did not know what else to say except to thank her.
“Agawe, we found a young woman for Ayong in the other village. You and Innà are going to bring gifts to the father of the girl to let him know that we want his daughter for Ayong,” Maeng said.
“We will leave after lunch,” Apô Abet declared.
Ubo popped his head through the door, “Agawe, come with me,” he ordered.
When Agawe was outside, Ubo said, “Walk with me.”
He was behind Ubo in an instant. Ubo turned and motioned him to walk beside him.
“You know my father owned these vast acres of land… as far as you can see…” He swept his hand around. “Ammà was a datu. The people came to him for important decisions. He settled disputes and render judgment. He was a good man…”
They followed a narrow trail into the abaca plantation. Up ahead Agawe could hear voices.
“Masami used to supervise the workers here… but now that he is gone….” Ubo did not finish his sentence.
They emerged into a small clearing where a bamboo shed stood in the middle. It had four bamboo posts with a thatched roof and an elevated flooring. It could be where the workers take a rest and eat their lunch, Agawe thought. There was a large earthen jar in the corner for water.
Nearby was the contraption used to extract the fibers from the abaca pulps. Agawe knew a little about plantation work from the stories his ammà used to regale him when he was young. His slave father worked in an abaca plantation when he was alive.
The mature abaca plants were cut down and the leaves removed. The trunk was the main part needed to make fibers. Each pulp of the trunk would be squeezed into the contraption and the fibers were pulled out and dried under the sun which were then sold to merchants.
As he thought, Ubo was one of the richest abaca plantation owners in the area.
Read Chapter 8
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